Archive for February, 2010


Sunday, February 28th, 2010

In my father’s house there was no distinction between our state’s capital and Ohio State; they were synonymous. Years later I learned just how different they were.

Columbus is a great, growing city. Ohio State, although it hosted the best years of my life, is…at the end of the day…a callous business. This, by the way, is difficult for me: I used to bleed scarlet and gray.

When we were young we went to Columbus by train. Sleeping downtown at the Neil House, hitting campus an hour pre-game, we’d marvel as our father paced the closed end of the stadium finding tickets from scalpers. “Wait ‘til kickoff. Trust me,” he’d urge: “Prices will drop.”

Those were simpler times—before Ohio State was “The” Ohio State. We’d walk High then take that long drive out Main to Emil’s to view desserts in a showcase. (Did I mention our dad weighed 350?).

Columbus. Ohio State. All the same.

I idolized Al Bogart and genetically he transmitted his affinity for Columbus. Sophomore year Dad relocated to central Ohio, renting in the heart of campus. Like I said—even then, to my father in his 40’s, Columbus and Ohio State—one and the same.

It was a woman, of course, that showed him the light. He called her “Beautiful Harriet,” and when they married Al Bogart moved off campus for good…to the real Columbus. My kinship with the city only grew. There was a whole community out there…with adults, warm, loving people. Our Dad, of course, fit right in, easily melding with not only his new family, but the same milieu of Damon Runyon characters he’d left in Cleveland.

It felt like a home. Senior year, anticipating marriage, I asked The Jersey Girl about spending the rest of our lives there. To her it was a cow town. I can’t actually say she declined, though—she never let me finish the question.

The first pedal fell off the rose in ‘72. I’d graduated with a stratospheric accum. Mature Bruce, however, went from an all-night card game directly to the 8-hour law boards, faring poorly. Sensing I could do better, my dad and I met with some counselor in the Student Union. “Take the boards again, increase your score by 50…and we’ll accept you.”

So I did what I was told, retook the tests and improved 120. Rejected again.

AB was outraged. His school would never do that! It gave its word! Incensed, he not only called the state house, but got an appointment. And so it was that we met with Governor John Gilligan—live and in person.

The state’s Chief Executive listened then spoke: “Sorry, gentleman, I can’t tell those guys uptown what to do. I’m only the governor.”

I forgave the school at the time; my father, a Jim Rhodes Republican, blamed Democrat Gilligan. The fact was, and is, that the university is bigger than the state. The fact was, and is that the school I was so committed to wouldn’t honor its commitment to me.

Years later the schism between city and State was drawn with indelible ink again. At issue was something more important that a school admission—it was a school expulsion.

Freshman year our daughter was the victim of a violent crime. She sought counsel with her school and justice from the state. Only the state came through. Even worse, Stace learned her assailant had been accused of a sexual assault by another women just weeks prior. The school had not charged him; he remained on campus.

The few miles of High Street never seemed longer. Franklin County’s Prosecutor listened and followed through. Securing the appropriate indictment, pursuing a just conviction, it honored its commitment to do the right thing. The school, however, stayed uptown.

To her credit, as OSU stonewalled her, Stacy took action. Rather than remain in anonymity like so many victims, she came forward. For her efforts she was awarded the Jean Clery Award by Security On Campus, Inc. for “extraordinary effort to make college students safer.” (Shame… that it was even necessary).

To this day I love Columbus and all IT stands for. Family thrives there; our dad’s buried there…. Used to be on trips back we’d exit 71 at Hudson, cruise down High, reminisce, then shoot out the freeway to the cemetery. No more.

Today I separate the reverie of Columbus from the actions of the college.
Reluctantly recalling our daughter’s travails—how her school: the school of her parents, uncle, aunt, grandparents, friends…how The School let her down…I just can’t feel like I used to. The thrill is gone.

Like I said, I used to bleed scarlet and gray—proudly. But they bailed on my kid—they did. So now my memory just bleeds.


Friday, February 26th, 2010

“It’s the best book I’ve ever read!” Hal announced to anyone willing to listen. Then, underscoring his fervor, he bought copies…several, and mailed them out. Not only to me, but to Fenton, to some guy at work, and get this—to my favorite ex-wife. And so it was that I devoured Bob Greene’s “When We Get To Surf City,” a narrative of travels in the back-up troupe for Jan & Dean. Indeed, it’s the wondrous journal of friends breaking bread and breaking into melody, the title taken from their signature song.

Surf City, the book says:

`“…the happy, cloudless place we all want to believe is out there… all the dreams that do come true, and all the dreams that don’t…”

There’s a lot going on around me these days. Not all of it is good.
Life issues. Real stuff. Very real stuff. Still, for one hour each week I get to Surf City. For one hour each week I ride that wave. For sixty minutes—peace.

Wednesday mornings, (absent reluctant commitment elsewhere), 8:30 means Corky’s. Each week, (barring Vegas, surgeries or Bob’s tax season), Les, Walt, Art, and Brother Himmel saunter in…and en masse, secure in our reserved back booth, we solve the problems of the world. Every Wednesday…like clockwork.
Used to be that Siegal came—but it’s been a while. Jerry’s busy running Kramerica, or whatever else it is he does when he doesn’t do anything (which is daily). Oh, and Snyder comes by from time to time, generally the week of his birthday. By and large, though, it’s We Five.

This week, as always, I didn’t want it to end. “What’s the number?” I asked Les, the clock compelling my exit, “Have to justify my existence. Gotta go.” (This week the math came out even—no need for a lottery).

T’is nothing special ‘bout our meal, little unique in our discussion. Truth be known, we have in fact had only one conversation in all these years. It’s just so good we keep repeating it.

Against the central theme of Arthur’s health, family and payroll, Les offers critique of the Indians, Browns and, (in all but Michigan Week), Jim Tressel). Interruption comes only through rare phone rings or my occasional inquiry about someone I’ve met. None of the married guys knows anyone though…although Lester often offers to ask Nancy. I pass, of course—knowing full well the folly of letting worlds collide—
And Arthur goes on.
Sometime before 9 Roz will bring the wrong order. By then Walt has announced that he is either leaving for Vegas or that he’s just returned. We discuss tournament poker, of course, and, as we did this week, explain the concept of “All In” to Snyder…again.
(Like I said…there is little unique about this confab).
Breakfast always include updates of names from the past, from high school to college. We’re still at the point where those cited are alive. One, (Fromin of course), was actually dead when the breakfasts began and resurrected only last year.
One such Wednesday I announced the upcoming road trip. H and I were meeting Steve in Jersey.
“You’re such as ass!” Arthur cried. “He’s dead!” Ten minutes later, after recounting the sad funeral, the Kraut relented. “Maybe I wasn’t there.”
I remember years ago in Columbus when my Dad would leave for his gin game. The horn would honk, he’d dash out the door…like it was the Second Coming or something…like it was something special…something other than his weekly game with his weekly guys.
But was just that. And THAT is what made it special.
I sense the same gait Wednesdays as I scamper through the deli.
Gliding past tables to the back, to the same booth, the same guys. Yes,
that’s what makes it special. That’s why once a week I can sing:
Surf City here we come!


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

“I’m leaning on a lamp post
At the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by….”


“What are you doing Valentine’s Day? “ asked the Jewish Dobie Gillis.
“New York,” I said.

Bob wasn’t done: “You should call that girl I mentioned in Vegas. She’s got a thing for you…Trust me…I can tell these things.”

“Leave me alone,” I groaned. (We’d had the EXACT unsolicited conversation in Nevada). “Absolutely not interested, and besides….”

Then came then pronouncement only Snyder’s mentality could fashion:
“I bet she’d lose twenty pounds if you asked her to!”

“Nah.” Laughing, I ended it, or so I thought. (She wasn’t so heavy—and besides, who THINKS that way?)

“You need to listen to me more,” he said, somewhat rabbinically, with an air that told me the subject could now be closed.

I love our banter—especially about women. He always encourages me, always prompts me. (Even when I’m in one of those “content to be content” zones, which is where I’ve slid today): Would like to be “with” but getting used to being without…until….

Perhaps it’s laziness? Time was more effort was expended to meet someone. Even if it meant just being where we thought the person might stroll by. Leaning on that lamp post, just in case. I actually believed there’d be a scene like the one painted in “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Time was. When we were new divorcees, Weiskopf and I would walk the produce department at Heinen’s and with little success. He’d blanche at the big bag of dog food draped over my cart. No pet at home, but I thought it made me look like the sensitive type. (That, by the way, was my A game).

Time was. The seas of singledom have rarely been choppy and often been busy—ebbs and flows interrupted by intermittent sojourns to Match.Com (nee Love@AOL), and JDate. The cycle, alas, has become predicable.

Winter boredom drives me to JDate, which accomplishes little. I’m on my home court. Over time, everyone here meets or knows of everyone. At least in our hood. Query then: Is there any Cleveland Jew that, over the years, I haven’t tripped on, isn’t already in the Friend Zone, or that, realistically isn’t already aware of me, and, having done her due diligence, herself opted to pass?

But I enroll anyway, (throwing good money after bad). Indeed, Vegas operates on this same concept of intermittent reinforcement. Slots pay off just enough to keep hopes alive. So too with internet dating. (See Krug/Wieder, circa 2006).

It never fails, though: a few months in I always ask “Does she really have to be Jewish?” After all, I’m not having kids. And Jewish women run a D & B on you.

My support system, my panel of experts (so to speak) —they’re all married. Moreover, the feedback from the guys is mixed:

The Jews say it shouldn’t matter. Most opine that shiksas are indeed nicer, less stress. (Each, by the way, remains married within our faith). To a man, they urge me to look beyond.

The Gentiles don’t care. They don’t even see it as an issue. They do not, however, understand that when a Jewess speaks of carrying her “over the threshold” she speaks of a financial threshold.

Burnside says money’s no issue…that I don’t give people enough credit. I say he’s full of shit. Still, in recent months my confidence reigned. Boldly I phoned a few ladies from that primo zip code. Both, of course, blew me off.

Which brought me back to JDate…and Match.

We’re teasing March now. Close enough. Melting snow turning to sunshine…Coffee houses with patios reopening….

I cancelled JDate last month. The other goes soon. Like I said…the weather’s breaking. And the cycle again is turning. My weight is down, somewhat respectable. (If only I still had my bichon Adam. HE is a “chick magnet.”)

Perhaps I’ll call Snyder to hang with me.  Any lamp post.  He can give his advice; I’ll ignore it.  We’ll laugh.

Better yet, Bobby, can bring his dog.


Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Sol died. I saw it yesterday…on line. He was 96.

Wanted to call Wido first, but it was 7AM—only four in his world. Walt, I knew was in Vegas (same problem). Heck, I wake the Kraut and Vicki gets mad! Ah! Snyder in his car—always a safe move.

“I thought he already died,” Bob offered. Evidently not.

I never met Sol; most of us hadn’t. Still, his largesse to a dozen or so unknown college kids enabled the “Glory Days” of their sandlot lives.
It was the late 60’s. Aging Ruby Wolfe, overlord of the dozen JCC
softball leagues had already taken a liking to Wieder. (And this was before Wieder was WIEDER). Now, off-season, and having grabbed our first title as Waxman Plumbing, we needed a new sponsor.

So for Alan, Ruby found Sol.

Sol wasn’t a family business playing off its ego; he wasn’t some local corporation looking to write-off. He was just a nice Jewish guy, humble in his absence, quietly helping out some nice Jewish kids.

And so for Sol… Ruby found us.

On the fields at Woodhill and the diamonds of Gordon Park teams were sponsored by commercial enterprise. In this Age Of Aquarius, multi-colored flashy uniforms were emblazoned Marshall Carpet, Premiere Industries, whatever. Our muted gray t-shirts, in old-fashioned black, block print read, quite simply: “SOL’S BOYS.”

“Who,” people would ask, “were Sol’s Boys?”
So for years on end we showed them.

We never had quite the funding of other teams. Each spring though, registration fees were paid, new balls showed up, and there was always cash money for tournament umps.

We played. We won. We were happy.

Heck, after a few seasons the pressed letters were crusting off the T’s, but none of us cared. All we really wanted was no rain on game days ‘cause the rest was bullshit. (And me? I was more apt to wear my shirt with jeans at night—more bent to strut Sol than Izod). We all were.

Indeed, the writers noted it. We weren’t uniformed when, under Kirtland’s lights, we made the ASA Sweet Sixteen. As such, the PD scribe, covering our epic upset of Angelo’s Pizza, wrote not of our hits, but of our “ragged outfits.” We wore his derision as our Red Badge Of Courage.

Once there was a rumor floating— he was coming. It was a Sunday morning and I can picture Ruby there, huddling with Alan. But Sol was private; there were no hellos; we never quite knew.

So he never met us. Never heard the gratitude we felt.

In time we moved on. To careers, marriages, children. To lives of ups, downs and inevitable plateaus. The Glory Days, over time, slid safely in our past, (where they belong).

We haven’t forgotten, though. None of us.

We haven’t forgotten the man we never met…whose name we proudly wore…

Each player, in his own way, still revels in our common bond, our common pride: Each of us was one of Sol’s Boys.

And for that, whether you want to hear it or not, Sol,

Thank you.


Saturday, February 13th, 2010

I’m on the road again. To New York…again. Not complaining, by the way. The fact is, though, traveling is not my strong suit; it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Not that I’ve ever had a life agenda. It is just that whatever it might have been, schlepping through airports wasn’t going to be it.

Hal and I were never taught to set “goals.” (In fact, only once did our dad use the word in a sentence. It was at the end of the ‘58 Giants/Colts NFL title game. We were at Diamonds Men’s Store by Superior and Euclid—the whole family—sitting as the car idled in the parking lot. Ameche had just scored the winning touchdown thus allowing us to go in the store. From the back seat, not quite understanding the delay…I watched our father slam the radio off:

“We win if he kicks the field goal!”

So much for Bogarts and goals. Not our thing.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Spring quarter my sophomore year I wanted a new car. (The 1968 Valiant had 160,000 miles on it). Rather than return to Cleveland for summer break, AB suggested I remain in Columbus, sell magazines, and by vacation’s end accumulate sufficient funds. So I did.

Malaise came by July. Selling Highlights weekdays, returning to Cleveland for weekend softball…it was getting old. $1,700 was saved, but not nearly enough. We were breakfasting on High Street at Johnny’ s State Restaurant when my Dad caved: “The guys in the gin game say you should never do today what you can put off ‘til tomorrow.”

“Your point?”
“Go back to Cleveland. Be with your friends and enjoy the summer. I’ll cover the other half of the car.”

(So much for goals).

It’s not that I NEVER looked to the future. I suppose I did. Rather than setting goals, though I did it through anticipating. Yeah! Anticipation. That’s the ticket!

Still, even in my wildest dreams I never conceived a life style like today’s.

Sure the divorce was (perhaps) inevitable. But who thought I’d be flying solo this long post-decree? And yes, I wanted my children to expand horizons, but did I ever expect that at age (gulp) 60 I’d be traipsing around the country visiting kids that were born and bred in Ohio? They all left! Where was THAT written?

I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this.

Our dad used to ask me “When I’m old and gray and can’t see will you read me the sports section?” He neither got old, nor gray (bald, yes). Similarly,
our mother, turning 47, proclaimed her death was imminent— that she’d never see 50. Indeed, her death at 81 made rich people of those wise enough to bet the over.

So much for plans.

I joke about it—the irony of me the non-traveler doing weekends on the road. But the truth is I DO wish I’d planned more, or maybe better. Sometimes I get caught up in the “What if?” game. What if I’d been more fiscally responsible? What if I’d planned for my future? Would things be that much different?

Probably not.

I’d still be living alone sharing life with Hal, Margie and a myriad of friends,
I’d still be watching my weight and driving Aunt Helen. And I’d still be smiling as I kvetched about road trips to see the kids.

So be it.

Life hasn’t turned out as expected. ‘Tis true. In many ways, though, it’s turned out better.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I firmly believe that God speaks to me through others. Two years ago today, for one shining moment, He cut out the middle man.

A Thursday, late January, ’08: My turbulent relationship recently ended, I wasn’t missing the drama. Then, when it was almost too peaceful, she called. There was something this dearly departed needed to “share.” That day, against the backdrop of coffee shop tranquility, Jodi revealed that yes, she’d been intimate with a friend of mine—indeed, one of my colleagues.

Fact is I no longer cared for her. That horse was long out of the barn. Thirty-three months on a rollercoaster (five break-ups). The only one to stick was the last—when I pulled the trigger. But my ego!

I felt violated. More by “friend” than by lover. More by the deceit than the deceitful. What followed was an emotional free-fall. Rapidly losing serenity, I was angry…again.

Called my sponsor David, then Burnside. Told my office and then….the rest of the western hemisphere. I was mad at myself as well. Indeed, for the first time in a while I was playing the victim.

I called her back. I needed details, I said. Had to know how, why, when…like it mattered. Like it really mattered. It felt ugly; I felt ugly.

My sponsor’s counsel was to “Write a letter but don’t sent it.” So I did. Seven pages long (typed). An epic. Perhaps even Pulitzer-worthy. Emailing it to David, Dennis and Blumenthal I studied my Blackberry for responses. Within minutes each shot back, admonishing not to send it. Burnside hit hardest: “You’re BETTER than that,” he said. But I hurt.

For a week I couldn’t walk in the office; for even longer I beat myself up. There was no end in sight…until…..

It was February 9—-another wintry gray Cleveland Saturday. When life goes south, they’d told me, run TO the program and not away. And so I did.

There was a 4:30 meeting. There, at Mayfield and Lee I found one hour of solace. Exiting, it occurred to me that a friend was leading Southgate at 6:30. Scurrying up Northfield I grabbed another hour of safety. Clearly, the only place I wasn’t hurting was in “the rooms.”

Half past seven that session ended; I could no longer hide. Like NFL Instant Replay I kept running the tape…and hurting….myself. Only myself. Why was this happening to me? (Sure, the relationship had always been unhealthy…but this?). While driving, Burnside called. “Look who you’re dealing with” he urged. When I’m in the victim mode, though, I don’t listen.

It THEN occurred that that my friend John was speaking in an hour. If two meetings felt good would not three feel better? The tempo of my week and pace of my day were violent. Praying for the willingness to let go…waiting.
But still…

I was wasting time with useless thoughts, with negative energy. Was this worse than what happened in the army? How big an ass am I? Does it even matter?

So I played the trifecta—three meetings in a day.—- Walked in and who was there but Jodi, the other guy, AND his wife. The entire cast of characters in one room…like nothing ever happened. Surreal. As my Dad would have noted, I didn’t know whether to sh#! or go blind.

Taking a seat in the rear (exit strategy for a 9:30 poker tournament), I planned to “white knuckle” the hour. Adding insult to injury, the married clown sat next to me. Could it be? Was this really happening? Right in my f’ing face?

At 8:45 that night my life changed. Forever. At that moment, for whatever reason, sitting in a meeting room at Lander Circle, I asked MYSELF what lesson I could learn from all this. I asked MYSELF why I sat, with a decade of uninterrupted sobriety, a semblance of balance, and let those two people steal my serenity. Were they not taking space in my head and heart, rent-free? And I was the one who was supposed to have it together?

Hokey as it may sound, there in the back of that chapel I heard from God. No, no voices or lightning. But I heard from God. I felt a flush in my neck, a rush of something warm…and instantly I knew that everything was OK. That everything, everything, was exactly the way it was supposed to be. That my job was to worry about my behavior, my kids…what was on MY plate. That my mother was right: Not only is everything the way it is for a reason, but I don’t have to know the reason. In fact, she’d tell me, it was none of my business.

That shining moment I felt cleaner than I had in days, safer than I had in years. And I knew that acceptance was and is the answer to all my problems.

That moment I began to look at things differently. And I haven’t looked back


Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away….after the marriage aborted, before the century turned—–clearly before my final descent……

Seated at the same luncheon table was an elegant, poised stranger. She had a soft smile, sad eyes, the Ann Taylor look…and no wedding ring! I was living alone then, teasing the poverty level—on the critical list at WeightWatchers. Still, for some odd reason…that day, that moment, this clown felt empowered. She had, as we say, The Look.

They directed our table to the buffet but I lingered. Sensing an opening, angling in behind her:

“Psst…I don’t know anybody here. Do me a favor and act like we’re together.” (Me—the semi-neb that married his first girlfriend opening with that? It was an absolute lie and she saw right through it, but it mattered not).

The afternoon came easy: conversation sandwiched by pauses, gazes, and…. I even used Thousand Island dressing, (rather than the invisible Italian which would hide my sloppiness). That day, that moment in time, I felt comfortable.

Unfortunately, that day ended. Long story short: we were in different places. Our strong connection could not, ultimately, negate her needs for herself nor her mandate to me:

“You’re not over your divorce.”

And so it was. Ultimately she found someone in her time zone and they wed. I was alone when I read it in the Jewish News. Then, perhaps a year or so later she called. Marriage over…looking for a friend….Would I be one?

Our paths crossed little in recent years. Twice at Park, a call when her dad died, …and once at Legacy in ’06. (It was after the weight loss and I had my swagger).

Three times in a decade. Until this week.

My eyes fell on her face as I entered the Berkowitz chapel. She was older (aren’t we all?), but the smile remained soft and the elegance?…well…she motioned me over….

Small talk. Easy talk. She inquired of my kids—grown, away. Gentle banter ‘til I asked about a recent birthday. It was then that her sister interjected with HER question: HOW did I remember the date?

I was ready: “Didn’t you know… when I met your sister I melted?”

A speck of silence and the lights dimmed. The rabbi was entering from the family room….

“Then why don’t you call her…?” came the final pre-game whisper.

They started with the Twenty-third Psalm. For twenty minutes I thought not so much about the dearly departed as that one moment in time. And I thought hard.

The service ended and we nodded goodbye. Quietly, alone, I headed to my car.

Some memories, I concluded, deserve to remain untouched.


Monday, February 1st, 2010

Live theater this. An impromptu lunch of six childhood friends—love, laughter and insults. And all I had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Will Hendricks was in town. Word spread; the troops showed.

Arriving first, Randy grabbed a middle booth.
“Don’t sit there,” I cautioned, reminding him he’d taken Bob’s seat. (Snyder needs the angle on all incoming traffic).

Soon came Stuart…and Will from Florida….then Wohlfeiler on a cane, looking as he’d just descended Mt. Sinai. Bob entered, having parked his GTO and immediately directed traffic. Upgrading our table, he assumed the power position at the head…facing out.

As Wieder mused by phone, “Quite the motley crew!”

And so the games began. Five minutes of Arthur’s health; one minute on Will’s mom…then a half-hour monologue by RaisinBrain recounting:

The day he pulled his tooth out at Greenview.
Life with Pam.
His somewhat recent police chase through Solon.

Randy kept talking but at some point focus shifted. (This group only goes so long without reverting to form). The communal target, alas, was Hendricks. Bob teased and Stuart taunted as Kraut and I watched the longest running off-Broadway show of our time.

And Will kept backpedaling. Each declaration he made brought a collective “BULLSHIT.” Back-handed fists were raised, pinky and index fingers projected…”Don’t bullshit, Will,” came the chorus. (The more things change….).

The tale of Will’s dad wrestling alligators. The night he pitched at the stadium. Talk inevitably got to the ‘71 Rose Bowl. Will’s car had died in New Mexico and the boys left him there. When the poor guy recalled a hurricane, well…fists flew again! “C’mon Will!”

We roared as Stuart googled via cell phone, but the laugh was on us. “Goddam Will!” This time he was telling the truth.

His victory, though, was short-lived. These guys….they never let up. Moments later Willie mentioned he was retiring soon. Noting he’d be entering a DROP program, returning to work WITH PENSION, the name-calling began.

“Goddam it Will, “cried Stuart, “You’re double dipping!”
Snyder chimed in: “You’re cheating the system Will…admit it!”
“No I’m not.” (His defensive comments….just like the good old days).
….and in the background, Randy, (who’d been talking to himself for ten minutes), approached the end of a soliloquy:
“If I’d have known she’d get pregnant I’d have done it anyway!”

A conversation that began in the mid-60’s —a discourse that repeats itself at every opportunity…every line, every insult was being hurled as if it had never been uttered before. Amazing! And predictable.

Time flew. In a moment nearly two hours had passed. Fenton had a car to return; Randy had to run. I hurried, but to G/d knows what. Check split, so did we. Each of us to the real world until the next time we glance through the rearview mirror for more love, laughter and insults. And as we said our good byes it was clear to all that Bob was not the only one with a good seat.

I love my friends.

          ” Old days – days of love and feeling fancy free
           Old days – days of magic still so close to me”